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Freshmen Give Back to the Community

by Ryan Furlong
Freshmen Give Back to the Community
USC student Lauren McCourt prepares food for the homeless at St. Mark's Lutheran Church during Friends and Neighbors Service Day 2009.

During their first weekend as Trojans, hundreds of USC freshmen chose to volunteer their time and services in the community they just started calling home.

More than 450 USC students, mostly incoming freshmen, gathered in front of Bovard Auditorium on Aug. 22 to participate in the 14th annual Friends and Neighbors Service Day.

Hosted by the USC Volunteer Center as part of Welcome Week, Service Day introduces students to a variety of nonprofit organizations throughout the Los Angeles area looking for volunteers.

“We hope that they get introduced to those organizations, become familiar with the issues that they’re grappling with and understand strategies that can be used to address those issues,” said Melissa Gaeke, director of the USC Volunteer Center.

Vice president of student affairs Michael L. Jackson, USC School of Social Work Dean Marilyn Flynn and USC Alumni Association president Robert Padgett kicked off the event at 8 a.m. with a discussion of the value of volunteer work to society, the surrounding community and the Trojan Family.

From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., students volunteered at more than 30 project sites, including a full-service women’s shelter and the Los Angeles Ronald McDonald House, which provides support for families of seriously ill children.

Volunteers at the Children’s Nature Institute worked at a children’s garden in Griffith Park.

“The fact that [the Children’s Nature Institute] had 20 organized volunteers who were eager to work in a focused way probably helped them do a week’s worth of work in three hours,” Gaeke said.

At the Back to School JAM, students in the surrounding community met with USC students in the SCholars Program to talk about college readiness. The SCholars Program also donated backpacks filled with school supplies.

Several other university groups, including the Troy Hall residential adviser staff, the Structured Curriculum Program and the sorority Alpha Delta Pi, also made commitments to participate.

Gaeke said that the volunteer commitment from university organizations helps them “create a reference point for service that’s important” and a “shared ethos of involvement and engagement.”

The next Friends and Neighbors Service Day is scheduled on Nov. 21. For more information, visit

Freshmen Give Back to the Community

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